Thursday, March 9, 2017

Challenges and Joys - Julia Guy

My challenge right now is doing all the homework of working on a role but not 'playing the homework.' I love the analysis and logic in preparing for something but I have to remember to let that go in the moment. 

I absolutely loved watching my fellow participants improvise. Everyone is so creative and it was such a great way of getting us on our feet and playing right off the bat. Actually watching everyone work in all the classes is fantastic.

Julia Guy will be playing Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility at the Citadel later this season. 

Challenges and Joys - Patrick Dodd

The biggest challenge for me has been searching for the balance between recognizing and respecting the emotional and mental state of a character, without pushing to "indicate" that state. It excites me because finding this balance is, I believe, one of the most important jobs of an actor; and it scares me because it is incredibly difficult, and constantly shifting. 

There was a moment in singing class when we were all humming together, not even intending to harmonize, and I felt the hum in my entire body and felt like everyone in the room was connected by the vibrations. That was beautiful and unique for me.

Patrick Dodd will be playing Edward Ferrars in Sense and Sensibility at the Citadel later this season. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Movement with Laura Krewski

Choreographer Laura Krewski (West Side Story, Fortune Falls, Vigilante) has worked with the Citadel/Banff Professional Theatre Program a number of years. The participants have daily movement sessions with Laura which helps them understand their bodies better, as well as providing opportunity for better conditioning, improving their strength and improving their flexibility.

The participants are taken through a daily warm-up which is followed by a variety of activities ranging from Pilates, to dance runs, to ballet. Laura also works with fellow instructor Karl Sine to assist in any way she can through the Stage Combat week.

It's best not to joke that her session is 'too easy', because she is ready and willing to push the participants as far as she can. Whether it's Pilates, dance or calisthenics, the participants soon realize that the motto of the Program (Stamina, Strength and Agility of Body, Mind and Heart) is something that Laura takes very seriously. In addition to the daily group movement session, participants also have one-on-one and smaller group sessions with Laura to address their individual needs and challenges.

"Aha! Moments and Challenges" with Robin Craig

I think one of my Aha! moments was after many hours of work, both on my own with the text and then with Bob in rehearsal on Richard III (Robin is working on Queen Elizabeth in Richard III in the Shakespeare Scene Study) finally feeling some kind of familiarity with the character and knowing when you might be getting close. It kind of makes you buzzy. The challenge, of course, is being able to find that feeling again and when you actually get it in your body it's nice to think you can rely on it. But it takes so much practice and bravery.

The most frustrating part of any of this schooling for me has been those blasted Filipino fighting sticks. They completely defeated me. Thank goodness my dance coach has the patience of Job and generously offered to be my partner so that at least I could get the first four movements.

Robin Craig is Mrs. Jennings in Sense and Sensibility  later this season at the Citadel. 

Reflecting on Week Two with Stephen Gartner

For me, week two was about taking pressure off of myself... The pressure to get it "right"... The pressure to be perfect and "nail it" and instead allow myself to explore and bring a beginner's mindset back to the work.

It is a little scary. I don't want to suck but if I'm giving myself the freedom to explore, I may very well fail but I may also discover things about myself and about our work.

My wife read this slogan somewhere (maybe it was on a shirt or a poster) that said: FAIL BETTER. I guess that's what I'm trying to do.

Over the years I've had a tendency to perhaps get a little too SERIOUS about acting. This past week I started to actually have fun. Why shouldn't it be fun? We're doing play-acting for living. Richard (Stephen is working on Richard in Richard III in the Shakespeare Scene Study) is a "dark" character but he takes great pleasure in his horrendous acts. Shouldn't the actor playing him have a little fun as well?

Maybe I've taken a few metaphorical chains off and found that little extra freedom to be as fun and exhilarating as it is scary.

Stephen Gartner is playing Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility at the Citadel later this season. 

Monday, February 27, 2017

Week One - Improvisation with Dennis Cahill

The first week also featured Improvisation workshops with Dennis Cahill from the Loose Moose Theatre Company out of Calgary. We had a great week doing Improv, even though the experience level across the participants was varied. Everyone dived in and pushed through their fears of performing without a script. 

Here are a few of the things that Dennis talked about with regards to Improv:

Defense Mechanisms - what happens to you when you fear something? Why is that thing in your head making you afraid? 
1. Thinking in advance - planning/intellectualizing. This keeps you safer but takes you out of the moment and then you are no longer present. 
2. Censoring/Editting - brains work fast. The interesting stuff is the stuff we don't censor. 

Mistakes can be twice as much fun if you just go with it. Don't place too much pressure on yourself to be good - just do it. 

During the week the participants explored control (speaking as one), advancing the scene (Yes, lets!), and status (Status Games) and much, much more. The improv workshops were great for developing skills in being Present as well as a terrific bonding exercise for the group. 

First Week - Rehearsal Prep with Tom Wood

In our first week, we had several sessions with Tom Wood regarding Preparation for Rehearsal. While the content was directed at actors specifically, I did find that most of it was translatable to the role of director. The key was 'Preparation'. That may make sense, but there are people who want to come into the rehearsal on the first day as a blank slate waiting for the director to fill them. While, that may seem ideal, it is simply not practical when one considers the limited time theatre companies have to rehearsal prior to presenting the show. Coming in prepared, but not locked in to choices, is a far better option to maximize the time for the best development of the work. After all, everyone has access to the script, so if that is the guide it certainly doesn't hurt to do as much work with it before rehearsals start.

To encapsulate some of the key points:
1. Learn your lines. These should not be learned with locked in choices, but the better you know your lines, the quicker you and the director can start exploring more interesting and productive choices. Identify the punctuation. There are a lot of clues for you as an actor inherent in the punctuation.
2. Figure out who the hero of the play is, and what your character is in relation to them. Are they a Helper or a Hinderer? Your character serves the play, not you as an actor. You will do better work if you ascertain what your function in the play is.
3. An evening in the theatre is not about the actors, or the director, or the designers - it is about the story that is being told for the audience. If the actors become the story, there is a problem.
4. When approaching the script, be an objective detective not a subjective actor. Figure out how to serve the play best and what the play actually is. Don't bring your personal baggage into the process.

There was quite a bit more in Tom's workshop, but these should give you a flavour of what we discussed and learned. Later I will write about rehearsal etiquette which has terrific tips for anyone in the rehearsal process!